Thursday, May 03, 2007

Electronically disconnected...

Despite forecasts of "dispersed" lifestyles - working from home, teleconferencing, virtual meetings - people still seem to want to be with each other when doing business. Especially Big Business.
But more than that, people are evolved to deal with each other in person. Anyone who's ever had an email badly received knows that stripping the non-verbal cues off words can dramatically change how they're taken. (Americans working for British firms become particularly aware of this, because the British style is much more curt, which comes across as hostile or censorious to Americans used to appending emoticons, or their verbal equivalent, to everything.)

When you're transacting millions or billions of dollars of business, lost nuance can have catastrophic costs. Important cues such as body language don't come across on conference calls, or even teleconferences; they can only be apprehended face to face. That makes it important to have the folks doing the deals all be in the same place, or close enough to the same place (like Stamford and Greenwich hedge funds) that you can frequently meet your counterparts. [More]

One of the promises for rural America was technology would make it a place where more than farming could be done for a living. Maybe we're asking too much or worse yet, wishing for the wrong thing.

Meanwhile, my observation is rural areas are being roughly divided into growth and non-growth categories. Either they possess a magnet metropolitan area - usually with higher education, major medical services, and government offices - or they are gasping for the oxygen being sucked up by such urban areas.

I'm not sure we'll reverse this trend and re-distribute our rural population more evenly. It could be better for the type of farming we do now to have large areas essentially lightly populated, and more or less left to agriculture.

But even farmers need face time with colleagues. We may not admit it, but we do. The trick then becomes devising occasions or events that regularly provide such opportunities and then admitting to ourselves we can't really do justice to our profession over the phone,

Or via a blog.

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